Virginia Johnson

04/27/2017 - 12:11pm

Officially, May Day is the 1st of May, but really anytime during this splendid spring month is a perfect opportunity to share small gifts of the season with everyone: teachers; friends; neighbors; and family. You can do that with May baskets—a wonderful, old-fashioned tradition.

04/27/2017 - 2:24am
Cover to If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections

This bright picture book is a great introduction to how nature works for rather young children. If You Love Honey traces the connections between the wild world and its inhabitants from honey to honeybees to dandelions to ladybugs to goldenrod to . . . well, you get the idea.

Cathy Morrison’s detailed illustrations give kids a friendly look at the natural world. The animals and plants that rely on each other to thrive might be found every day in your neighborhood park, but the vivid colors and sharp lines put them in the spotlight for story time.

04/24/2017 - 2:21am
Cover to The Girl in a Cage

As darkness falls, Marjorie hopes the children will not come again. With their taunts and rotten turnips for throwing, they harass her as much as they can, and there isn’t anything the princess, hanging in the filthy cage in the monastery courtyard, can do about it. To them, Marjorie is simply The Girl in a Cage.

04/25/2017 - 12:53pm

Not every child today learns in a big building with lots of other students all studying the same things at the same time. In the past twenty years, the homeschool phenomenon has caught fire across America.

04/18/2017 - 2:15am
River of Darkness by Rennie Airth

It takes a serious case to bring Scotland Yard detectives to the countryside, but, without doubt, that is what the local Bobbies have on their hands. Detective John Madden, a hollow-eyed veteran of the Great War, has a knack for discovering the truth behind baffling crimes, even if his manner leaves some of the more politically savvy officers cold. In the case of the violent murder of a fine, upstanding family, the horrors presented are disconcertingly familiar to him, even if they do not match their otherwise bucolic village setting.

The mystery behind Rennie Airth’s River of Darkness unfolds in a time when class distinctions were still very real, but the 1920s was also a period of greater freedom, when some women, such as the village’s lovely Dr. Helen Blackwell, might discover other outlets for their interests and passions. All the while, men who had survived the war might not survive the battles that raged in their minds. Psychiatry was still in its infancy, and fingerprints, as well as casts of footprints and tire tracks, were the common limits of scientific investigation. The rest was up to logic, hard experience, curiosity, and intuition.

04/19/2017 - 9:49am
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

“It was June and long past time for buying the special shoes that were quiet as summer rain falling on the walks. June and the earth full of raw power and everything everywhere in motion.  The grass was still pouring in from the country, surrounding the sides, stranding the houses.  Any moment the town would capsize, go down and leave not a stir in the clover and weeds.  And here Douglas stood, trapped on dead cement and red-brick streets, hardly able to move.”

The opening piece in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine finds Doug Spaulding at the start of his twelfth summer, yearning for a pair of running shoes that will let him be a part of the glorious season. Like the dandelion wine bottled and stored in his grandparents’ cellar, the memories of that long-ago summer are preserved to be savored by his readers.

04/06/2017 - 2:07am
Cover to The Language of Angels: A Story about the Reinvention of Hebrew

What happens if no one speaks a language for nearly 2,000 years? Is it dead? Latin and ancient Greek are sometimes called “dead” languages because they are rarely spoken anymore. We still use both those languages, especially for worship services or studying science and literature, but most people do not talk to each other using either language every day.

It was the same for Hebrew, which has also been called “the language of the angels.” A Jewish scholar and father, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was one of many Jews living in Palestine (part of the Ottoman Empire) in the 19th century, and he wanted to give the Jewish people who had drawn together from across the world a shared language, a language that reflected their faith.

06/20/2017 - 2:00pm
Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

As an art student, Donna Seaman naturally studied artists of the past, thumbing through photographs and reading sketches of their lives and works. It didn’t take her long to figure out there was something wrong with these pictures. In too many, the male artists’ names were proclaimed, but the women, when they did appear, were simply listed as, “Identity Unknown.”

On a mission to make these women and their works known, Seaman did the research on seven whose art and lives were every bit as intriguing as their male counterparts. We meet the provocative sculptor Louise Nevelson, “The Empress of In-Between.” Her medium was wood, and she derived much inspiration from ancient cultures. The essay “Girl Searching” introduces Gertrude Abercrombie, whose specialty was edgy, emotional and autobiographical paintings. She cruised Chicago in her vintage Rolls-Royce and held jam sessions in her three-story Victorian brownstone, earning her title, “Queen of the Bohemian Artists.”

05/23/2017 - 11:34am

A Solid Beginning

Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps was born on October 13, 1902, in Alexandria, Louisiana, a child of middle class parents of mixed racial heritage—what is sometimes called Creole. His father, Paul Bismark Bontemps, was descended from French plantation owners living in Haiti and their slaves. After coming to the United States, the Bontemps family lived free in Louisiana for decades, and the many of the men worked as skilled brick and stone masons for generations.  In addition to working his trade, Arna’s father also played music with a popular band. Arna’s mother, Maria (pronounced Ma-rye-ah) Carolina Pembrooke was descended from an English planter and his Cherokee wife. Maria taught public school and enjoyed creating visual art.

05/23/2017 - 11:33am
Meeting Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is famous today for her memorable words. She should also be remembered for her indomitable spirit.

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